Greeting the Dawn on Stony Ledge

This ridge is my church.

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Is that a cool picture, or what?

I’m not religious, but this past weekend was a religious experience. Kelley and I threw all our camping gear in the back of her Santa Fe and shuttled off into the unknown; an unknown trip with an unknown number of participants, on an unknown timeline sandwiched somewhere between an early Easter Dinner and an Easter Brunch, with both of our respective families.

That chaos was rewarded, for once. We managed to rope together a nice 5-person group for a quick jaunt up the Haley Farm Trail to Stony Ledge, one of our favorite Outing Club campgrounds.

And it went off without a hitch — nah, just kidding!

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We shot off in the dead of night, with three headlamps and one flashlight split amongst our group of 5. It was a wicked fast climb, because I had easter bunnies in my boots and couldn’t help but shoot up the side of the mountain. I don’t know what got into me, but I was absolutely intoxicated off the hike. I loved every second of the ascent. I rapidly scanned the trail in front of me for blue blazes, trying not to lead us down one of the connecting trails before our destination. In just an hour or so, we covered the 2-ish miles to Stony Ledge, and we didn’t get lost- that’s a big accomplishment for me.

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We set up camp at the lean-to, gathered up some firewood (with the help of a very rare felled yellow birch that managed to die upright, leaned against another tree) and had a roaring fire. The night was clear, above freezing, and spent in eager, laughter-filled conversation until well after midnight.

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I managed to avoid a hangover through a Nalgene overstock error (we must have carried up three gallons), and woke up to an absolutely crystalline early spring morning. This was Easter Sunday, and I felt like I could understand why ancient scholars were compelled to believe in a higher power when they perceived the beauty of their world.

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Words don’t really do it here. I mean, I’ll try… This morning’s sunrise felt like a retrospective; I’m at the campground where I first cooked for a group trip that I put together. I’m sleeping in a new tent that matches the one I couldn’t use in my last days in Colorado because I was bleeding too much from my bike crash. I’m taking pictures with Jimmy’s Nikon D5100, my first camera. I’m with people I’ve shared a hundred sunrises and sunsets with, and all these little moments in the outdoors seemed to pour out with the first rays peeking up over Mt. Greylock’s crest. I was so supremely happy to be up there, and so grateful.

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There I am- Jimmy took that one. Our view from Stony Ledge was wicked. I got out of my frost-rimed sleeping bag, the bug door left wide open overnight, and shook the soreness out of my calves. Jim offered up his camera, and I started shooting!

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I was wicked happy to be sleeping in this tent. It’s a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1. I always regretted selling the Big Agnes Fly Creek Platinum I used in Colorado, but I could barely afford it back then. When I crashed and took the skin off of 6% of my body, I kept it packed so I wouldn’t bleed on it (I think there must still be a little blood in my sleeping bag, actually). This tent was picked up just last week, on super-duper-clearance, and it’s the 2015[ish] version so it’s even nicer than my old one. It was so great waking up in it- it felt palatial compared to the bivy I’ve been using for the past two years, though, I was inordinately bored taking it down in the morning.

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We packed up pretty quickly- Kelley and I had an Easter Brunch to get to with her family. It was going to be a brisk climb down. Everyone got moving after we had a minute to take in the sunrise. We skipped breakfast and Jimmy forgot his coffee, so it was easy to hit the road with the promise of a meal on the other end of the trail. We had a big sleeping bag in hand, since Courtney is still down a backpack, and we switched off carrying out our trash. We practice Leave No Trace (except for the spare firewood we left for the next campers).

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We were making brutally good time, until Courtney suffered a particularly brutal rolled ankle. This was her first time with this kind of injury, despite a burgeoning running career, and we could tell immediately that she was in a lot of pain.

I’m not Wilderness First Aid trained, and I want to be more than ever. I knew enough from talking to smarter people and spending a lot of time reading trip reports that I had a pretty good gameplan in mind after seeing her ankle. Kelley spent enough time in college sports that I let her wrap the ACE bandage from my first aid kit around Courtney’s ankle. We took off her tight gym shoes and switched them out for Kelley’s looser trail runners. Then we divied up her gear and Fabian and I started carrying!

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Yep. We carried Courtney the remaining mile out of the woods. Poor Courtney! Fabian is a personal trainer and I’m not, and I was really feeling it in my forearms by the end of the hike. Carrying an adult that weighs just a bit less than you do is tough, but doable. I had my fingers interlocked around my waist, around her thighs, and that kept my arms from giving out. The rest was just watching my steps and making sure I didn’t roll an ankle, too. By the end of the trail, I was the most physically exhausted that I’ve been since at least last summer. Phew!

Great trip, gang! Courtney is going to be just fine. It’s not a broken ankle and we don’t suspect a tendon tear, either, so she may see a doctor or give it a few days. Swelling was minimal and we had some help diagnosing from Jimmy’s girlfriend Brittany, who works as a P.T.

My Easter adventure wasn’t done. We raced to Brunch, spent some time with Kelley’s family, and then ended up back in Amherst with three hours of daylight left. Time for a bike ride!

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I threw a jacket and a headlamp into that fancy roll-top framebag Nick made me over at Rogue Panda Designs, and kicked up dust on Moodybridge Road, closed to thru traffic and perfect for bikes. I hadn’t been down this road yet, even though it was only a mile from my house. I didn’t initially realize there was dirt down this way, since the road begins as pavement at a 4-way intersection. But, there it is, the most beautiful transition a road can make.

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After cruising about a half a mile down the road, I detoured onto the Fort River Trail at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Neat little spot. It wasn’t super bike friendly, but it was very pretty and I had no problem walking my Pugsley when I passed by couples and families checking out the first hints of spring flora and fauna.

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The trail might not totally be my style, but I can dig how easy it makes it for people, especially older people or people with movement difficulties, to get out and see the beautiful natural landscape the Pioneer Valley. Great!

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And so marks the end of the best weekend I’ve had in a long time. I feel like I say that about a lot of weekends…

Keep Riding, hiking, running, whatever! Spring is here!

 

 

 

 

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